Thursday, May 05, 2005


So the other night most of my neighbors— ten or twelve people from six or seven houses— had a meeting to discuss recent goings-on at two other houses nearby. In attendance were the same good folks who show up whenever there’s a neighborhood issue; we all know each other by now. Lots of others don’t bother to come; they are probably the ones not terrified of threats to property value.

Anyway, I was vaguely aware of some troubles from, and between, the two houses in question. One early morning last August a woman in bathrobe and slippers came out of one house and began screaming up at the second floor of the other. The text of her monologue is too vulgar to post here, but the gist of it was that she (first woman) felt the other woman to be lacking in intelligence and other desirable qualities. As proof, she cited the fact that she (second woman) probably didn’t even know that her husband had spent the previous night engaging in intimate relations with her (first woman). She withheld this fact, though, until the very end of her rant, as if it were the clinching evidentiary fact in an elaborate legal argument.

So that was all very amusing, and there were other similar incidents which I paid little attention to. In October I gladly sealed up my windows and haven’t thought about those people since. That is, until I arrived late at last night’s meeting, to hear one of my neighbors—a petite, quiet mom of two little kids—finishing a sentence with “… and I guess when I really got disturbed was the day with the machine guns.” Apparently, some sort of hostage-like situation had happened a few weeks back, and the SWAT team came swarming down the street. Earlier, the same woman reported, she had called to report possible drug-dealing activity. The police asked her to call the DEA, and the DEA told her to be on the lookout for a large, tall man driving a rental car with out-of-state plates. If she saw this, she was to make detailed observations and call them back.

I’m not sure you can picture where I live. There are a bunch of renovated older houses, on two dead-end lanes that sort of abut each other, We have mostly nice professional-ish people, and a lot of lilacs. We don’t have much gunfire. But apparently I’ve been too busy at work to notice the crime wave (or, for that matter, to post on my blog.)

Well, we had all kinds of help at this meeting. Our local police officer was there, as well as the Community Policing representative. Our city councilor was there. The head of Public Works was there to discuss with us about sprucing up the street. These officials were all supportive and responsive (well, except the officer, who chastised the mom-neighbor for her reluctance to get involved with drug-trade surveillance: “If you want this taken care of, you can’t just cower in your house and hide!”)

We all felt bonded, neighborly, and safer. We drank wine and coffee. We brought up other problems of mutual interest: Who owns that red car that’s always blocking the way? What’s that smell of natural gas people have noticed? It turned into a bit of a where-have-you-been-all-winter springtime block party reunion. We caught up on recent vacation exploits, summer plans, job changes, and child development. I learned that the three-year-old next door knows my name and asks after me frequently. Overall, it’s almost worth having the SWAT team on your street if it results in a neighborly experience. Especially if you’re at work the day the machine-guns come through.


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